Remembering Dorothy Dvorsky-Rohner

Associate Professor in Departments of Classics and Art/Art History, 1996-2011

  • Celebration of Dr. Dorothy Dvorsky-Rohner and Dedication of the Dorothy Dvorsky-Rohner Ancient Gardens on Saturday, April 22, 2017, at 10 a.m. The Ancient Garden (located beside Whitesides Hall). Free and Open to All. Rain location: Whitesides Hall Lobby.
  • 50th Anniversary Lunch, 11:30 a.m until 1:00 p.m. Highsmith Student Union, Room 221-222, $10 per person.
  • "Getting to Know You Again or For the First Time" Alumni Games. 1:30 p.m., Reynolds Quad.
  • Digging Archaeology in Italy with Dr. Lora Holland, 2:15 p.m. Whitesides Hall, Room 118
  • Recreating the Greek Battle: Interactive Presentation with Dr. Jake Butera, Whitesides Hall, 3 p.m

Dorothy Dvorsky-­Rohner (of proudly Czech descent, she was always insistent on the “Dvorsky”) was a scholar of remarkably wide interests and a truly beloved teacher and friend, who will be deeply missed by many people. Dorothy earned a BFA in Art History (1985), an MA in Classics (1989), and a PhD in Classical Archaeology (1993)—all from the University of Colorado at Boulder. As an undergraduate, she graduated magna cum laude with election to Phi Beta Kappa and the Jacob Van Ek award, the highest honor given to undergraduates for academic excellence and community service at UC-­Boulder.

While studying Art History she became fascinated by Greek and Roman art and learned Latin and Greek so that she could specialize in Classical art and literature. Her PhD dissertation focused on hairstyles of Archaic Korai and was informed both by her background in Art History and as a studio artist, since prior to her academic career at UC-­Boulder, she was a sculptor. While working as a graduate student, she also assisted Professor Hara Tzavella-­Evjen on her archaeological digs in Greece. From 1985-­1996, she taught at UC-­Boulder as a lecturer, at Metropolitan State College, Denver, the Community College at Denver, and (from 1995-96) she was a Research Associate at the University of Colorado Museum.

It was her unusually broad interdisciplinary background that brought her to the attention of the University of North Carolina at Asheville when it was searching for a candidate for a brand new position shared between the Art History and Classics departments in 1996. One of her referees spoke of her “daring, capacity for hard work, enthusiasm, good judgement and creativity,” a list of qualities that will sound familiar to everyone who worked with her as a colleague or experienced her as a teacher.

Such qualities proved extremely useful in her new life at UNC Asheville. Until this time, no post had explicitly been designated as interdisciplinary, so that this was terra incognita for all of us, and especially Dorothy, who had to negotiate the demands of working in the Classics and Art departments as well as contributing her unique expertise to the university’s interdisciplinary Humanities program in the first course in its sequence, focusing on the Ancient World. At this time, Art History was not yet a major at UNC Asheville, and much of Dorothy’s early years in the department were taken up with expanding options in Art History and archaeology. Art History is now a major within the Department of Art and Art History, with many popular electives and it has several dedicated Art History faculty. Dorothy’s diligent work and vision for Art History at UNC Asheville were very important contributing elements to the success of this discipline. Her breadth of interest and expertise made her an invaluable colleague academically, and her breadth of humanity and interest in people made her a beloved colleague, mentor, teacher, and friend.

During her time at UNC Asheville, Dorothy taught Greek language, Renaissance art, Greek history, women in antiquity, medieval art, Humanities 124, African Art, Ancient Gardens, Old and New World Archaeology, Museum Studies, Ancient Ceramics, the Roman Republic, and the Roman Empire among other topics. She was inspirational to many people: since she started her academic career after rearing seven children, she had a special bond with older students at UNC Asheville, for whom she was a true role model.

In 1999, Dorothy organized the first Study Abroad trip to come out of the Classics department. Using her connections with Professor Tzavella-­Evjen, she brought a group of our undergraduates to an archaeological dig in the middle of a very hot onion field near Thebes, giving them direct experience in field archaeology, a very special and unusual opportunity for undergraduates. Since then, study abroad, visiting sites in Turkey and Greece, has become a regular part of the department’s study abroad offerings to students across the university, while the archaeological element of it has migrated to Tuscany, where our undergraduates dig with Dr. Laurel Taylor each summer. The vision and sheer courage to take this on originally, creating one and now two programs from nothing, were typical of Dorothy. Dorothy was also instrumental in bringing archaeology to Western North Carolina as a founding member of the local Archaeological Institute of America society. Through her tireless labors, Dorothy helped establish and grow the local AIA chapter, bringing numerous national and international scholars in archaeology to Asheville during the years she was the president of the chapter.

Dorothy would probably have defined herself above all as a teacher, but she was also a scholar, who presented regularly at national and international conferences and published her work. The great demands on her made by her position and her generosity with her time to colleagues and students, along with sometimes uncertain physical health, meant that she did not publish as much as she might have done in different circumstances.

The range of her publications attests to her versatility and interest in many different areas. From Etruscan houses1 and to ways to stimulate  students in the first in the first six weeks of beginning Greek, a class she always loved to teach,2 to a longer-­‐term project, begun in 2009, on Greek sculpture, Dorothy loved to write and think over a broad range of topics. In 2001, she received a $20,000 grant from the Office of the President of the UNC system to fund her collaboration with Western Carolina University on an e-­learning course entitled “Old World/New World Archaeology as studied through Greek and Native American sites, art and material cultures,” a course that, as so often, used innovative techniques, in this case, distance learning, to bring new material to students in new ways. From this course, she also conceived of, and spent many hours working on, trying to secure an NSF grant for analysis of ancient and Cherokee ceramics and to establish an Archaeological Testing center at UNC Asheville. While the grant was ultimately not funded, Dorothy used the knowledge gained from it to work with undergraduates analyzing ceramic materials.

Dorothy also continued to use her studio art skills and published some technical drawings for Adamantios Sampson’s volume on Ftelia on Mykonos, where UNC Asheville students dug in 2001.3 In summer 2003, she secured a Fulbright-­Hays scholarship in Chile for a comparative archaeology project which she worked on for five weeks at a university in Valparaiso and had an excellent collaboration with Paola Pascual, the director of Valparaiso’s Open Air Museum whom she was subsequently able to bring to Asheville.

In 2005, Dorothy was invited to participate in the forum UNESCO sponsored “Project of 100 Roman Farms” at the site of Palazzaccio, near Lucca, Italy, and from 2006 until 2010, worked as the ceramic specialist at the site. Though a specialist in Greek material culture, Dorothy gamely agreed to master an entirely new corpus of ceramic material from this Roman site where she continued to work until her retirement. With characteristic verve, Dorothy spent many days in the grueling sun and humidity processing volumes of pottery, seemingly unaffected by it all. Indeed, in her “free” moments at the dig, she could often be caught jumping into a trench to grab a trowel and, in her later years at the site, students remained impressed at her agility with the pick-­axe.  While Dorothy’s contributions to field reports, publications, and conference papers on Palazzaccio were critical to understanding the complexity of the site, it was her unflagging optimism, her readiness to find the humor in any situation, and her generous spirit that made her a truly beloved member of the team.

Dorothy’s energy and love for life were extraordinary and inspiring. In June 2009, her health took a downturn and she had to take medical leave in the Fall semester. Characteristically, she insisted on returning for the Spring semester, even though a longer period of rest would have helped her, and taught four different courses, ranging from beginners’ Greek to African art. Her departments and students were delighted to enjoy her presence for a little longer, but at the end of the 2011-­2 academic year, she determined that she needed to retire after 15 years of devoted service to the university and returned to Boulder, Colorado, to enjoy retirement with her husband John and time to be with her extensive family. She was truly irreplaceable as colleague, friend, and mentor, as the number of messages on Facebook from former students, remembering how much they learned from her, attests.

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1 “Etruscan domestic architecture: An Ethnoarchaeological model," 115-­‐148 in John F. Hall, Etruscan Influences on the Civilizations of Italy from Antiquity to the Modern Era (1996).
2 "Gaming in Beginning Greek: Taking Advantage of the Six Weeks’ opportunity"(CPL Online 4.1 2008) https://camws.org/cpl/cplonline/files/Dvorsky-­Rohnercplonline.pdf.
3Adamantios Sampson, The Neolithic Settlement At Ftelia, Mykonos. University of Aegean: Rhodes, 2002.

Remembrance written by Dr. Sophia Mills (Classics) and Dr. Laurel Taylor (Art History and Classics). Lightly edited for website by art/art hisory webmaster.